In 2005, Jacqueline Silver noticed that the nurses at Temple University Hospital, represented by a union called PASNAP, had won a great contract.

So Ms. Silver, a well-loved and respected social worker everyone called Jackie, set a plan into motion: She was going to get that kind of union representation for her and her coworkers there.

That was the kind of person Ms. Silver was, her friends and family said. She was “someone who stood for the people," said Lorenzo Glover, a respiratory care worker who led the charge in 2005 with Ms. Silver to leave their current union and join PASNAP.

Ms. Silver died in her sleep in the early hours of Tuesday, Jan. 22, at her home in North Philadelphia, said her son, James Silver. She was 56.

Compassionate and hardworking, Ms. Silver dedicated her life to advocating for others.

At the hospital, she was instrumental in helping her patients get lung transplants. As a mother, she battled the education system to get one of her sons, who is autistic, better schooling. As a longtime labor leader, she fought to improve her coworkers' lives through collective action.

“She was all about making sure we never stood down and that we always fought,” said Celeste Bevans, a radiology tech at Temple and the vice president of Ms. Silver’s local union, the Temple University Hospital Allied Health Professionals, or TAP, which joined PASNAP in 2006. Ms. Silver was president of TAP at the time of her death.

The hospital where Ms. Silver worked for nearly 30 years has been in mourning, Bevans said.

Jackie Silver at a union event.
James Silver / Courtesy
Jackie Silver at a union event.

When Ms. Silver led the charge to join PASNAP and leave union 1199C, she had to convince her roughly 600 coworkers — a wide-ranging group known as professional and tech staff that includes occupational therapists, lab workers, and phlebotomists — that it was the right move. It was a scary process, Glover said, and “downright disheartening” at times, with dissent coming from coworkers and management.

But Ms. Silver was the woman to get it done, Glover said.

She knew how to talk to people, said Patricia Eakin, a retired Temple nurse who recently stepped down as PASNAP president. They respected her, they listened to her.

After joining PASNAP, Glover said, the techs won better vacation time, health care, and wages, as well as the ear of the administration. Ms. Silver was especially skilled at engaging the administration, Glover said, always insisting that the union be assertive and professional, never aggressive or hostile. “This was the standard we had to abide by,” he said.

In 2010, Ms. Silver was one of the key leaders when 1,500 Temple nurses and techs went on strike for 28 days, Eakin said. She also served on PASNAP’s executive board, an elected position, and did so until the day she died.

Ms. Silver, the oldest of seven, grew up in North Philadelphia. After graduating from the Philadelphia High School for Girls, she joined her mother, Novella Davis, to study at the Community College of Philadelphia, where Davis was working toward her associate’s degree.

Jackie Silver (right) with Rep. Dwight Evans and a friend.
Courtesy James Silver
Jackie Silver (right) with Rep. Dwight Evans and a friend.

They decided they would study social work so they could make a difference in people’s lives, Davis, 72, said. They’d show up to their night class together and classmates would call them “Cagney and Lacey,” after the ’80s-era show about two women detectives, she said, laughing at the memory.

Ms. Silver and her mother went on to Temple University to get their bachelor’s in social work and graduated at the same time. Ms. Silver then got her master’s in social work at Temple. All the while at Temple, she raised her two sons, James and Jermaine, and also worked various jobs to support them. Davis helped with child care while she was at class or at work.

To strengthen their union, Ms. Silver developed relationships with politicians such as former State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, who was a social worker before she went into politics. In 2016, Ms. Silver was a delegate for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and served on his campaign’s platform committee, on which she fought for Medicare for All, Eakin said.

She also loved to shop and dress up, James Silver, 37, said. She always wore dresses and heels, even at work. You would know she was walking down the hall because of the tapping of her heels, he said.

In the last few years, MS. Silver was grooming new leaders, like Bevans, for the union. She had planned to resign from the union this year, Bevans said.

She is survived by her two sons, a granddaughter, six brothers and sisters, and her mother. The funeral will be at 11 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 31, at Zion Baptist Church, 3600 N. Broad St., in Philadelphia. The viewing will be from 9 to 11 a.m.